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Curtis Blaydes only interested in ‘contenders’ as he works towards a new contract with the UFC

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Curtis Blaydes knows even with a win over Alexander Volkov this weekend that he’s still not the next person in line for a heavyweight title shot but there’s still a lot on the line when he competes in his second straight main event.

With contract negotiations looming, the 29-year-old contender is looking to build on his second-round TKO against former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos in his last outing. While Volkov sits behind him in the official UFC rankings, Blaydes still saw this matchup as an opportunity to earn a paycheck and take out another viable heavyweight contender as he waits for his chance to fight for gold.

“I want to get through this contract,” Blaydes said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Volkov is a respectable opponent. I wouldn’t just fight anyone. I’m no longer fighting guys like Justin Willis or Shamil Abdurakhimov, guys at the bottom. I only want contenders.

“I’m trying to build my case at a heavyweight title shot. I can’t build that off of names of guys who aren’t in the picture. Volkov’s in the picture. I believe I can beat him. I like making money.”

Blaydes has always been scheduled to fight on June 20 but thanks to the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc with international travel, he wasn’t exactly confident that Volkov would actually be able to get into the country.

After a long training camp, Blaydes was honestly ready for whatever the UFC threw at him, although ultimately he still ended up with Volkov as his opponent.

“Honestly, I do want to get through this contract,” Blaydes said. “My strategy is a universal strategy, so it works for pretty much everyone in the division. I want to box you. I’m going to use my wrestling and I’m going to take you down.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re boxer, kickboxer, striker. It doesn’t matter if you’re a wrestler. I will still look to take you down. Doesn’t matter if you’re a black belt in jiu-jitsu, I will still take you down. My game plan remains the same.”

Despite Volkov sitting behind him in the rankings, Blaydes still views him as a viable threat because the Russian holds a win over a former champion in Fabricio Werdum not to mention impressive outings against veterans like Roy Nelson and Stefan Struve as well.

“Is it risky? Yeah but I feel like me beating him is going to give me such a great addition to the guys I’ve already beaten,” Blaydes said. “Only helps my case for why I believe I should get a title shot. So I need that.”

Over the past few months, Blaydes has expressed his disdain for the state of the heavyweight division in the UFC due to a logjam at the top while reigning champion Stipe Miocic was out of action.

Just recently, Miocic booked his next title defense against Daniel Cormier at UFC 252 in August, which was definitely welcome news for Blaydes and the rest of the heavyweights vying for a shot at him.

For all his complaints about the heavyweight belt sitting idle since August 2019, Blaydes wasn’t even pushing for his own title opportunity because he fully understands the lay of the land in the contender’s race.

He just wants to know that eventually all his hard work will pay off.

“I know I’m not the next one in line,” Blaydes said. “Everyone when I speak on it says ‘well you’re not even next.’ I never said I was next. But I just want something to happen. After I beat Volkov, where do I go? There’s nowhere for me to go.

“I’ll be No. 3, [Francis] Ngannou will still be No. 2 and DC will still be No. 1. We’re all in the exact same spots. It’s very frustrating. I like to have some kind of idea or trajectory and it’s hard to predict where I’ll get when there’s no movement.”

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